Saturday, February 04, 2006

Those Cartoons Depicting Muhammad

It’s been all over both the blogosphere and the Mainstream Media lately: the fact that Muslims have been very upset, and in some cases have rioted, because of some cartoons of the Prophet published in a Danish newspaper.

Other papers throughout Europe republished the cartoons, in a show of solidarity with the Danish paper.

In the Wisconsin blogosphere, check out Jiblog, the Texas Hold ‘Em Blogger, the Texas Blogger (again), From Where I Sit, and On the Borderline.

We don’t think this is a simple issue, and offer the following observations.
  1. People should refrain from saying, printing or broadcasting things that are offensive to others’ religious sensibilities. Doing that is an insult and an affront.
  2. Government should not be in the business of enforcing civility on this issue.
  3. Insulting people based on their religion is neither better nor worse than insulting them on the basis of race, gender or sexual orientation. The politically correct double standard that holds that blacks, women and gays are “victim” groups who must be protected from even the most inconsequential slight, while nasty attacks on religion are allowed as “free speech,” is hypocritical.
  4. People who feel insulted have every right to protest. They can demonstrate. They can picket. They can flood a media outlet with phone calls, e-mails and faxes. They can boycott.
  5. Violence and threats of violence are out of bounds. No insult against religion — nor against somebody based on race, gender or sexual orientation — justifies violence.
  6. People need to keep a sense of proportion. Some conservative Christians in the U.S. have made a big deal of slights that should have been overlooked. But even worse, the Muslim riots against the Danish cartoons have been most severe among Palestinians! Don’t they have much more important things to worry about?
  7. If Christians and Muslims sometimes lack a sense of proportion, so do secular liberals. What kind of deformed personality gets bent out of shape by the thought that a Nativity display might be seen in a public square, or that school children will be allowed to sing Christmas carols, or that an evergreen tree displayed during December might be called a “Christmas tree?”
  8. Muslims need to ask themselves about their own willingness to demonize Jews. As the Chicago Sun-Times put it:
    “No one can say a bad word about our prophet,” said a newly elected female Hamas representative in the Palestinian parliament. But Palestinians see nothing wrong with describing Jews with words like pigs and monkeys and sanctioning efforts to teach children to hate and even murder Jews.
  9. One must distinguish between real slights and insults, and bogus claims articulated by political activists who are trying to jerk people around. The sense of offense that American Indian race hustlers claim to feel toward Indian athletic team nicknames is the clearest example here. The vast majority of Indians have no objection to such names.
Thus no simple knee-jerk reaction makes sense in response to an issue like this.

But a concern for intellectual consistency goes a long way.


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